I recently met Prof. Sugata Mitra at the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong, http://21clhk.org/. He was on leave at MIT from Newcastle University when he visited us. As introduction to his philosophy and his work, here is his talk at TED Global in Oxford in 2010, http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html
Prof. Mitra highlights Inquiry Based Learning (EBL) as a powerful tactic for Outcome Based Education (OBL), which is the focus of many educational institutions. For me, the technique works particularly well for learning computer art tools since tools change too often, are not user friendly, and are too complex in general. Students seem to intuitively know how to learn any tool based on case studies presented to them as outlined by Prof. Mitra.
In Hong Kong, Prof. Mitra also outlined in two minutes the history of education and highlighted the transition from inquiry based learning, which was focused on finding answers to questions for which we didn’t know the answer, into learning based on teacher delivery. He attributed this change to Plato and the equalization principles of education to the Victorians. The issue at hand is that, clearly, today’s students don’t want to be identical to each other and the learning tools at their disposal are tremendously powerful. Prof. Mitra challenges educators with his argument that some key skills become obsolete through the ages and identifies that we are in such an age.
As a side note, he is also the inspiration for the movie Slumdog Milionaire: